Friday, March 11, 2011

Britain closing the door after the horse has escaped

The ‘mistake’ of giving millions of new EU citizens immediate rights to work in Britain will not be repeated, Damian Green vowed last night. The immigration minister said the toughest possible restrictions – normally a seven-year ban on taking a job – would apply to nations trying to join the union. They include Turkey, Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia and Montenegro.

In 2004, when eight eastern European nations became members, Labour ruled there would be restrictions only on the rights of their citizens to claim benefits. Virtually every other EU state – with the exception of Ireland and Sweden – kept their jobs market closed. That meant around one million Poles came to the UK because they were barred from countries such as neighbouring Germany. Labour had estimated the figure would be 13,000 each year.

Mr Green told the Mail: ‘This Government will push for stringent controls to stop workers from new member states from being able to access our labour market – we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. ‘It is in no one’s interest to see another unplanned influx from abroad. We need to protect the interests of British workers.’ EU rules allow members to close labour markets to citizens of accession states for up to seven years.

It came as ministers confirmed that migrants from the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004 will be entitled to full benefits in the UK for the first time from May. Officials estimate that as many as 100,000 migrants could claim tens of millions of pounds between them. Currently migrant workers from the A8 countries cannot claim out-of-work benefits unless they have completed 12 months of work in the UK.

The changes to EU rules by other member states are likely to have a significant impact on migration to Britain. Last year, net migration into the UK rose by 36 per cent to 226,000. An estimated 572,000 entered on a long-term basis in the year to June 2010 while 346,000 left. It leaves ministers with a mountain to climb if they are to meet the pledge to reduce net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’. They have no control over the number of arrivals from within the EU.

But, if significant numbers of Poles stopped arriving each year – or left the UK for Germany or Austria – that would make the task much easier.

Poland’s labour minister, Jolanta Fedek, said last month she did not expect the lifting of labour market restrictions to trigger another wave of emigration. She said it was more likely that the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Poles working in Germany illegally would come clean.

German economists have predicted about 100,000 people from the A8 countries will come to their country after May but experts have said they did not expect migrants who had settled in other countries to relocate there in large numbers.

Joachim Moller, director of the Labour Market Institute, at the Federal Labour Office, told the International Herald Tribune: ‘Even though the German economy is now strong again and in need of workers I just cannot see people just moving around like that.’

Mr Green said: ‘We are in the process of delivering major reform to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands with the introduction of a new limit on economic migrants from outside the EU, alongside new proposals to reform other routes of entry, including students, families and marriage.’

Since 2004, more than 1.15million immigrants from Eastern Europe have signed up to a Home Office worker registration scheme.


Immigration crackdown afoot in Florida House

Gov. Rick Scott's pledge to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida probably won't happen, but a House committee voted Thursday to bring him the next-best thing.

The new Florida immigration reform plan would require police to check the immigration status of a person who is under arrest or is the subject of a criminal investigation.

That language stops short of Arizona's controversial law, which requires police to determine a person's immigration status whenever the officer makes "any lawful contact" with the individual.

To critics, Florida's proposal will essentially allow for the same type of racial or ethnic profiling that they say is the inevitable product of Arizona's law.

But proponents say Florida just needs to crackdown on illegal immigration to ensure the nation's laws are followed. Like the Arizona law, the House proposal requires all employers to verify employees' work status.

"My feelings for this issue and my passion for this issue is not just for the rule of law," said Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart. "It's not just about jobs — which it is to some extent — it's about what we've allowed to occur in our country." Snyder said it "turns my stomach" to hear arguments about how food and labor are cheap because farms, hotels and construction foremen hire undocumented immigrants and pay them less. Snyder compared the arrangement to slavery.

Snyder didn't have to sell the bill too hard in the House Judiciary Committee, where he's chairman and where Republicans outnumber Democrats, who cast the lone nay votes in the 12-6 approval.

Snyder's bill is the first of a handful of immigration measures cropping up in the Florida Legislature. A Senate bill, sponsored by Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, will be voted on Monday, but it doesn't require law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of arrestees or criminal suspects in cases of "reasonable suspicion." Instead, the Senate bill would require jail, prison and other detention officers to check the status of an inmate.

Subhash Kateel, an advocate from the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said the Senate bill was marginally better than the House proposal, but both are too close to the Arizona law. "In the end, the problems you see with people who are stopped for driving while black will happen," Kateel said.

Lawmakers are under intense pressure to crack down on illegal immigration — an issue that polls well, except among Hispanics, who happened to be a prized voting bloc in the state. Gov. Scott made an Arizona-style immigration law a cornerstone of his primary campaign and expects the GOP-led Legislature to deliver a bill he can sign.

But big business also opposes the measure, with the Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Retail Federation, Florida United Business Association, and Florida Chamber of Commerce speaking against the House bill Thursday. The employers said they didn't like the regulations requiring them to use the federal government's eVerify system, which can have errors.

Florida Chamber lobbyist Adam Babington said Florida's reputation could be tarnished. "The debate is not helpful to the state," he said.

But Bill Landes, activist with Florida Minuteman, said Florida needs to make sure legal residents aren't losing their jobs to those who aren't lawfully in the state. "This is real life," he said. "These are your citizens out here who are doing without work, working constructions working the hotel/motel."


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